QL4MDR: A GraphQL query language for ISO 11179-based metadata repositories

H. Ulrich*, J. Kern, D. Tas, A. K. Kock-Schoppenhauer, F. Ückert, J. Ingenerf, M. Lablans

*Corresponding author for this work


Background: Heterogeneous healthcare instance data can hardly be integrated without harmonizing its schema-level metadata. Many medical research projects and organizations use metadata repositories to edit, store and reuse data elements. However, existing metadata repositories differ regarding software implementation and have shortcomings when it comes to exchanging metadata. This work aims to define a uniform interface with a technical interlingua between the different MDR implementations in order to enable and facilitate the exchange of metadata, to query over distributed systems and to promote cooperation. To design a unified interface for multiple existing MDRs, a standardized data model must be agreed on. The ISO 11179 is an international standard for the representation of metadata, and since most MDR systems claim to be at least partially compliant, it is suitable for defining an interface thereupon. Therefore, each repository must be able to define which parts can be served and the interface must be able to handle highly linked data. GraphQL is a data access layer and defines query techniques designed to navigate easily through complex data structures. Results: We propose QL4MDR, an ISO 11179-3 compatible GraphQL query language. The GraphQL schema for QL4MDR is derived from the ISO 11179 standard and defines objects, fields, queries and mutation types. Entry points within the schema define the path through the graph to enable search functionalities, but also the exchange is promoted by mutation types, which allow creating, updating and deleting of metadata. QL4MDR is the foundation for the uniform interface, which is implemented in a modern web-based interface prototype. Conclusions: We have introduced a uniform query interface for metadata repositories combining the ISO 11179 standard for metadata repositories and the GraphQL query language. A reference implementation based on the existing Samply.MDR was implemented. The interface facilitates access to metadata, enables better interaction with metadata as well as a basis for connecting existing repositories. We invite other ISO 11179-based metadata repositories to take this approach into account.

Original languageEnglish
Article number45
JournalBMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)45
Publication statusPublished - 18.03.2019


Dive into the research topics of 'QL4MDR: A GraphQL query language for ISO 11179-based metadata repositories'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this